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I think that the problems you are having (rejection of ideas that the
reviewers find "debatable") are due to a widespread view that the job
of a reviewer is:
1. to force the authors to rewrite the article,
2. suppress speculation.
I think both are harmful to research. The first makes it require
twice the amount of time and energy to do research than is necessary,
for a doubtful gain. A better approach would be to either (a) reject
the article outright, or (b) ask for really minor revisions. Since
the same number of journal pages would be filled as there are now,
nobody would really suffer. People would have time to do twice as many
experiments, compress them into the same number of articles as at present,
and publish sounder conclusions based on more research. If an article
was rejected, one would have the time to add more research and try again.
Reviewing would take much less time too, since we wouldn't feel obliged to
rewrite the other guy's paper. We would just say "yes" or "no" and give
clear reasons for saying so.
The second problem is the tendency to engage in theoretical debate
as part of a process of negotiation about the publishing of an article.
This debate is hidden from the larger scientific community, which could
benefit from it. If the authors lose the argument, we never hear
about their work at all. I do not imply that we should abandon the
criteria for excellence that we now use (e.g., drawing clearly erroneous
conclusions from data). I am just saying that the word "debatable"
should never serve as grounds for suppressing an important debate.
- Al Bregman